|Chef Jernard Wells, the Love Chef!|
She knew it was wrong the moment she smelled it burning. She skidded down the hall, her heart socks sliding on the hardwood floor. She slid into the kitchen just as the fire alarm went off. The howling shrieks of the alarm echoed in her already splitting head as she grabbed her moose oven mitt and pulled the oven door open.
Black smoke bellowed out combining with the scent of burned meat making her gag. Casey slammed the door shut and did the only thing that felt right, she screamed. Once her mini breakdown was over Casey slowly approached the oven and turned it off. She grabbed the remains of her steak and slammed it down on the counter. It hit with a solid thunk making her eyes water. Casey put her hand to her mouth to keep another scream at bay as the phone rang. She pushed her tangled blonde hair out of her eyes and answered it.
“Hello” she said sourly almost hoping it was a telemarketer so she could unload all her venom. She had spent all day waiting for the other shoe to fall. Nothing was going right: Ruined Valentine’s Day dinner, check, sick kids, check. Today had been perfect.
“Hey hon, bad news.” Jon said softly through the phone. Her husband’s voice usually made her heart beat, even after seventeen years of marriage, but today she wanted to throttle him.
“What’s wrong?” she said trying for monotone, hoping she wasn’t being a bitch.
“I’m going to be late again. The plane was delayed and I won’t be in till midnight.” He waited and she knew he was waiting for her to go nuclear. Jon had gotten a play by play update as each disaster had come crashing down today. She knew he knew she was furious, probably why he was calling instead of texting her, he knew she hated that.
“Great” Casey muttered as she counted to ten and tried for calm. She knew it wasn’t his fault he was going to miss Valentine’s day with her. His job as a company vice president kept him away often and she knew how air travel was but right now all she wanted to do was rip someone’s head off.
“I’m so sorry hon” he said softly “I promise I’ll make it up to you this weekend.”
Casey went to reply when the sound of vomiting reached her from the living room. She sighed and rubbed her hand down her face. “No problem” she said in a sweeter voice than she felt before ending the call and hanging up. She raced down the hall again and slid again on the floor as she entered the living room and saw the mess and the big miserable eyes of her five year old son. She wondered if she could get away with leaving it here and simply cleaning him up then the smell hit her and she decided that was not an option.
Casey tucked Robbie into bed and wiped her dirty hand across her brow. She slunk down the stairs smelling the cleaner before she was halfway down. It had taken her three hours to clean up the house and get Robbie settled. It was now 10:30 and she could officially say this was the worst Valentines Day ever. She flopped down on the couch and pulled the grey and white snowflake blanket around her. She wanted to cover her head and go to sleep but she was simply too tired. Casey sighed and snuggled down into the brown couch. The blanket was warm and fuzzy and it was summer, but she loved it, it was one of the only things that made her feel better when things sucked. Jon had bought it for her at Bath and Body works last Christmas but she used it every time she felt like crap. She sniffed and wrapped it tighter around her, daring anyone to try and take her blanket or make her move. She pulled the edge up and heard the crinkle of paper. She groaned, “Please God,” she whispered to herself as she peeked one eye at the offending paper, Please don’t let me have missed a puke covered paper, please don’t let it be on my blanket.”
Her eyes searched her beloved blanket and found the paper. It’s bright pink color popped at once against the grey and white of the blanket and Casey snatched it up, intrigued.
Get up and follow me it read in close tight script. Casey shook her head, sure the stress of the day had finally pushed her over the edge. Then she saw them a trail of pink paper hearts on the floor. Casey scrubbed her eyes and followed them, even though she did want to stomp them. They led up the back stairs to her bathroom. The pink hearts stopped at the edge of a steaming tub of bubbles. Casey felt her eyes tear up as she plucked the last heart from the edge.
“Come on in the water’s fine” it said in the same tight script. Casey shook her head, a feeling sweeping over her was all about but decided to go with it. She slid out of her clothes and sunk down into the water. Her elbow hit a glass of wine and she pulled the pink heart post it off the glass and smiled.
“Drink me” it said with a smiley face on top of the e. She pulled the drink to her nose and inhaled the scent of Belle Meade plantations raspberry desert wine, her favorite. She smiled wondering who had organized all this but at this moment she didn’t care, she still had puke in her hair and right now this was heaven.
Casey shook her head as a knock sounded at the door. She squeaked and ducked down until her chin hit the bubbles. Her sister peeked around the door and smiled at her. She slid a robe into sight and shook it. Casey smiled at her younger sister and took the robe when it was tossed to her. She was so curious, “had her sister arranged this?” Rob?” She quickly tied the robe and went into the bedroom where her favorite red dress was laid out on the bed. It was long and flowing with a sexy split up the side and she loved it. She slipped it on with the Silver Star sandals beside it and followed the paper hearts back out the door and down the stairs.
Her sister was waiting at the bottom and handed her a note without speaking. Casey felt her heart thump when she recognized Rob’s handwriting this time. “Come outside and meet me where I told you I loved you the first time.” Her sister smiled at her and gave her a little shove out the door.
“Go have fun, I’ve got Robbie.” Her sister said with a laugh as she nudged her forward. She smiled back at her and walked quickly outside. The air was warm despite it being February and Casey smiled as she hurried around to the big oak tree in the back yard.
She felt young again, the tiredness and the stress of the day slipping away as she skirted the blue juniper bushes and hurried toward the tree. She rounded the house and met the eyes of the only man she’d ever loved, her husband Rob. He stood beside the old tire swing in a full suit, his grey eyes twinkling as he held out his hand to her. He stood tall and handsome in his best grey suit and red silk tie and she thought he’d never looked better. She smiled and hurried toward him not sure what to say. Rob was a loving husband but sometimes life got in the way of romance. It had been a long time since he’d done something like this.
“Are you ready to come down the rabbit hole Alice?” Rob asked with a soft smile as he pulled her to him.
“I’m not sure what to say.” She said with a smile as he enfolded her in his arms “I didn’t think you were coming home, and today had been so crazy, I’ve felt like I was going mad.”
“We’re all mad here.” He said with a smile as he kissed her gently and led her over to the candlelit table he had set under the tree. Her favorite dinner Steak and baked potato sat waiting and Casey grinned unable to help but be impressed. She sat softly loving the fact that he had taken the time to remember her favorite meal and to memorize some of her favorite lines from her favorite book Alice in Wonderland.
Rob sat beside her and looked into her eyes and she felt her heart thump the way it had when they had first met eighteen years ago. Sometimes she wished he didn’t work so much but she knew that he did it for their family, for her. Every time he looked into her eyes she remembered why she’d fallen in love with him in the first place.
“It’s the best kind of madness.” She said with a smile as she pulled him close again. Their lips met and time fell away as they lost themselves in each other and Casey knew that whatever happened this would always be the sweetest madness of all.